The .458 Lott

By Chuck Hawks

.458 Lott
Illustration courtesy of Hornady Mfg. Co.

This .45 caliber elephant rifle cartridge is based on the long .375 H&H Magnum case necked-up to accept .458" bullets. The .458 Winchester Magnum is also based on the .375 H&H case, but shortened to work in a standard (.30-06 length) bolt action rifle. The Lott cartridge requires a rifle with a long (.375 H&H length) "magnum" action.

Because the .458 Winchester Magnum is essentially a shortened version of the longer .375 H&H based round, .458 Win. Mag. cartridges can safely be fired in .458 Lott rifles, much as .45 Colt cartridges can be fired in .454 Casull revolvers. (Note that the .450 Watts wildcat and .458 Lott cartridges are not interchangeable with each other, even though the .458 Lott looks very similar to the earlier .450 Watts Magnum.)

The wildcat .450 Watts was the predecessor of the .458 Lott, and it had a run of popularity until the introduction of the .458 Winchester Magnum in 1956. The .458 Win. became the African elephant cartridge of choice and was picked-up by most rifle and ammunition manufacturers. After that the .450 Watts faded into obscurity.

The idea of a wildcat using a necked-up .375 H&H case to throw a .458 inch bullet was revived by Jack Lott in 1971. The .458 Lott uses a blown out and slightly shortened .375 H&H case that is still about .30 inch longer than the .458 Winchester case, and only .05 inch shorter than the .450 Watts Magnum. I do not know the reason for this slight reduction in case length.

The .458 Lott uses a straight walled magnum case. Its dimensions include a rim diameter of .532 inch, a head diameter of .513 inch, a neck diameter of .484 inch and a case length of 2.80 inches. Overall cartridge length is 3.6 inches. Rifling twist is specified as one turn in 10 inches. Maximum average pressure is 53,701 cup or 62,409 psi.

The .458 Lott was standardized by A-Square, who produces both rifles and ammunition in the caliber, as well as brass and bullets for reloaders. Hornady also offers factory loaded ammunition in .458 Lott, and supplies brass and bullets to reloaders. Ruger chambers their Model 77 Mk. II Magnum and No. 1 Tropical rifles for the cartridge.

A-Square factory loads claim a MV of 2380 fps and ME of 5848 ft. lbs. from their Triad of 465 grain bullets. Hornady loads a 500 grain RN bullet at a MV of 2300 fps and ME of 5872 ft. lbs. At 100 yards the velocity of the Hornady load is 2022 fps and the energy 4537 ft. lbs.; at 200 yards the velocity is 1776 fps and the remaining energy 3502 ft. lbs.

According to the sixth edition of the Hornady Handbook of Cartridge Reloading 65.3 grains of H322 powder will drive their 350 grain RN or FP bullets to a MV of 2300 fps. This would be a useful load for any North American big game. A maximum load of 79.8 grains of H322 will drive the same bullets to a MV of 2600 fps.

The Hornady 500 grain RN (soft point) and FMJ-RN (solid) bullets can be driven to a MV of 1900 fps by 67.1 grains of H335 powder. A maximum load of 79.3 grains of H335 will drive those bullets to a MV of 2200 fps.

Recoil is always an important consideration, and never more so than when dealing with elephant rifle cartridges. None of these big bore bruisers are easy on the shoulder, and the .458 Lott can truly punish the unwary shooter. In a 10 pound rifle, firing a 500 grain bullet at a MV of 2300 fps, it generates about 70 ft. lbs. of recoil energy. The recoil velocity of that 10 pound rifle is in excess of 21 fps, so don't believe that guff about a slow, heavy push from these cartridges. What you feel is a fast, heavy slam, analogous to being hit in the shoulder with a 10-pound sledgehammer moving 21 fps.

On the other hand, the effectiveness of the .458 Lott cannot be denied. It will drop an elephant in its tracks with a well placed bullet, and has done so many times. The experienced African hunters who have used the .458 Lott usually swear by it. You really can't ask for a better recommendation that that.

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Copyright 2003, 2012 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.